2. Drink Driving

Driving isn’t the safest of past-times even when you’re completely sober. In the UK alone last year there were 140,086 road incidents, with 1,732 fatalities.

Those numbers are staggering in and of themselves. Adding alcohol to the mix only serves to increase the chance of a fatal collision, which is why there are such strict laws on its prevention.

The Legal Limit

Most people see the limit for driving after drinking as around one-and-a-half to two pints of beer – but the reality is, it’s incredibly hard to determine from person-to-person.

Ironically, it’s not the alcohol levels which make working out whether you’re legal to drive hard, but rather factors regarding your body.

The law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland states you can have no more than:

  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of blood
  • 35 micrograms of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of breath
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of urine

In Scotland these numbers are far more stringent, with the figures standing at:

  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of blood
  • 35 micrograms of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of breath
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of urine

Herein lies the problem. While those figures are set in stone, the amount of blood and urine that a person has in their body will vary greatly.

As such, someone who weighs 15 stone and is over six feet tall is likely to be able to drink a little more than a five-foot-seven-inch individual who weighs 10 stone. Regardless, if you’re planning to drive, it’s best to be safe and stick to soft drinks. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Factors to consider if you’re unsure as to whether you’re within the limits or not include:

  • What gender you are (males tend to have a slightly higher tolerance)
  • Age
  • Weight
  • How recently it’s been since you’ve eaten
  • Type of alcohol you’re drinking
  • Stress levels (this affects blood pressure and as such the percentile of alcohol-to-blood ratio)

If in doubt, sit it out. Never get behind the wheel if you’re really not sure whether you’re legal to drive or not. The risks aren’t worth the reward in this instance. The key to enjoying alcohol safely and responsibly is to know when you are or aren’t in charge of your body.

The effects and dangers of drink driving

It goes without saying driving under the influence of alcohol is majorly dangerous. We’re all aware of how unbalanced we become when consuming even a few drinks – so imagining that behind the wheel of a car is a little hair-raising.

In 2013, 260 people were killed in the UK as a direct result of people driving under the influence of alcohol. Getting into a dangerous situation is always going to be heightened when driving drunk, but why?

If you examine the precise factors involved, it’s not hard to see why people become 1.4 times more likely to crash after drinking when compared to being sober.

Driving under the influence means:

  • The brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye
  • Processing key info takes longer and becomes harder to do
  • The nervous system reacts more slowly, meaning your reaction time is vastly delayed
  • Your vision will be more blurred than usual
  • Speed and distance become much harder to judge
  • You experience symptoms including drowsiness

Your judgement and risk-taking skills will also be heavily interfered with, meaning while you’re on the road there’s a much greater chance you’ll do something reckless.

In most cases this is what causes an incident. People who feel like they’re sober, but are actually slightly over the limit, are just that little bit more likely to take a risk and then misjudge a distance. Slight missteps like this are what makes the legal limit so low.

Driving the morning after

If you thought working out whether you’re legal to drive on the night itself was tough, it gets even more complicated when trying to figure out if you’re legal the next morning.

This will naturally only apply to people who’ve had a heavy night (a few pints isn’t going to stop you after a good night’s rest) and are unsure how much of the alcohol has or hasn’t left their system yet.

Generally speaking, it’s estimated it takes one hour for a single unit of alcohol to be broken down in your body. Using that as a rough guide, you can go from there to try and see roughly whether you’ll be able to party it up the night before or not.

If you stop drinking at 7pm on a Saturday, but want to drive at 8am the following Sunday morning, you’ll burn off 13 units of alcohol in that time. This means you won’t want to be drinking more than 14 units at the very most in that time (allowing one unit where you could still be under the limit).

Again, this is a system which might leave you a little confused, so it’s probably best to make the most of Internet tools. These will give you a rough idea of how long you should leave it before hitting the road.

Penalties & Consequences

Unsurprisingly, if you put your and other people’s lives in danger, there are fairly strict punishments which have been put in place.

In the UK, the penalties for driving under the influence are as such:

  • Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit – 3 months’ imprisonment, a £2,500 fine & a potential driving ban
  • Driving (or attempting to) while above the legal limit - 6 months’ imprisonment, unlimited fine & a one-year driving ban
  • Refusing to provide a breath specimen for a test – 6 months’ imprisonment, unlimited fine & a one-year driving ban
  • Causing death by careless driving while under the influence – 14 years’ imprisonment, unlimited fine, a ban from driving for at least 2 years, and a compulsory driving test before your license is returned

There are also a separate set of rules in place for people deemed to be “high risk offenders”. This category is for people who have experienced two drink-driving offences in 10 years.

You can also find your way onto the list if:

  • You were caught driving with at least 87.5 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millimeters of breath
  • You refused to give the police a sample of either your blood, breath or urine after you were taken in
  • You refused to allow a sample of your blood to be tested

After being caught for a drink driving offense, you’ll also find:

  • Your car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • Any future employers will see the conviction on your license, if driving is part of your role
  • You’ll have trouble travelling abroad

When all is said and done, driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the worst mistakes you could possible make. Don’t risk it.